Professional Office Etiquette


Professional office etiquette involves many basic yet important etiquette rules, which should be practiced to maintain a friendly, productive work environment. When proper office etiquette is in place, co-workers are more likely to get along and produce a higher quality of work.

Behavior to Avoid

  • In the office environment, there are specific behaviors that should always be avoided to promote a healthy, friendly office. First, avoid criticizing co-workers or employees in front of others. Not only does this cause embarrassment for the person you’re criticizing but it creates a hostile workplace for everyone. Second, if you are having an argument or disagreement with someone in the office, try to settle it as quickly as possible (and in a private area or room). Allowing disagreements to escalate causes unnecessary negativity for everyone in an office.

Listening Skills

  • According to the American Heritage Dictionary’s “The New Office Professional's Handbook,” “how well you listen to others can profoundly affect your business relations with them.” For example, when a boss or co-worker gives you information or asks you to perform a task, listening effectively will allow you to complete the work correctly without having to ask anyone to repeat himself.

    Also, people feel more appreciated in the workplace when you are able to remember personal details they have shared with you. Listening effectively will allow you to do this.


  • Most companies prohibit smoking in the office. However, some offices offer smoking areas (indoor or outdoor). If you are a cigarette/cigar smoker, respect the office rules and your co-workers. Only light up in smoking areas. If there are no designated smoking areas, smoke outside, away from other office workers who might have allergies or asthma.

    According to Ann Marie Sabath, author of “Business Etiquette in Brief: The Competitive Edge for Today's Professional,” “You have only one simple rule to follow: If you have even one nonsmoker in your midst, don’t smoke!”

Romance in the Workplace

  • Most offices have rules in place regarding romance in the workplace. If not, you may want to clarify this with your boss. Even when they are allowed, office romances may be discouraged. While dating itself may not have much of an impact on office relations, fights and breakups do.

Getting Fired

  • Getting fired is a professional’s worst fear. Whether it’s based on a mistake you made or is no fault of your own, being let go can bring out the worst in a person. Because of this, you need to keep proper office etiquette in mind.

    Do not allow your emotions to get the best of you. Any type of emotional outburst will reflect badly on you. Also, you may say or do things that you do not actually mean, which is not professional behavior.

    In addition, remember that burning bridges with co-workers or bosses may be a mistake. In the business world, you never know when you will need a reference or if your former boss is acquainted with a future boss.

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  • “The New Office Professional's Handbook”; American Heritage Dictionary; 2001
  • “Business Etiquette in Brief: The Competitive Edge for Today's Professional”; Ann Marie Sabath; 1993
  • Photo Credit office image by Marek Kosmal from
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